Three years ago, if you would have told me my son would soon be diagnosed with a dangerous form of cancer, I would have…
Just to name a few...
But that cancer, it morphed and grew right here, in our own house, beneath our collective naive nostrils.
When the diagnosis came, it was the last thing we ever expected.
And honestly, there is nothing we could have done to prepare ourselves for it.
We simply had to walk through it.
I remember wishing it all away, wondering, hoping that maybe, maybe it was all just a nightmare.
Yet, we had to wake each day and face reality's glare.
And, we survived.
Have we been traumatized? Yes.
Do we now live in fear of the next bad thing that will happen? You bet.
I would never want anyone to trivialize, sugar-coat, or glaze over our experience: “but look at how you’ve grown,” or “at least xyz didn’t happen”.
That would suck; it would not help...
What I am amazed by, though, is that we DID walk through hell.
You see, shit happens.
You cannot stop it.
“You can’t go over it, you can’t go under it... "oh no!", you have to go through it!”
We all fear lots of things.
And I think, beneath it all, what we all really fear is death.
Some of us dread the finality of it.
Some imagine walking through the suffering and the grieving involved and do everything they can never to go there.
Most all of us fear the witnessing of death, from either the side or the front lines.
And now friends, we are facing an unexpected sickness that is spreading faster than wildfire.
We cannot predict who will become sick when, for how long, or how severely.
We are frantically clearing shelves in grocery stores, hoarding resources and fretting over the news.
And the news?
How sweetly it alerts us to every new death.
How thoughtfully it stirs up new fears within us, ones we had not yet imagined, like “Will the internet break, since everyone is now working from home?”
And guys? We are scared.
We are the generations nurtured on sci-fi and fantasy, the children who imagined zombie apocalypses and planets ruled by apes.
The empty grocery store shelves, those people wearing face masks garbed in hazmat suits standing precariously in empty subways? These images conjure fear, fear and more fear.
We are scared, yes.
But I want us to remember.
I want us to know.
We stand on the backs of our ancestors, ones who weathered plagues and wars, who survived holocausts and depressions.
Shit is happening again, just like it has so many times past.
We didn’t have time to prepare for it, and we don’t know how bad it will get.
But here’s the truth: we really can’t control shit. Not any of it.
We cannot control the invisible. Not at this time anyways.
And we, the collective world community, WILL PASS THROUGH. We will see the other side.
One day, our children’s children will read all about it in their history books.
“My grandma told me about that,” they will exclaim.
Now that we have settled that, what do we wish to be remembered for, when the proverbial storm has passed?
How we protected ourselves at all costs?
Anger and vitriol, the spreading of lies and rumors, frosting shit with shit?
Or, how about as... the people who pulled through, they who were resilient?
They who stolidly accepted life for what it was and dug deep for the courage to do the right thing, the loving thing?
Because there really is only one element in all of this we can control, and that is our own thoughts, words, attitudes and actions.
And when you stop, take that deep accepting breath, you will see the single mother struggling to feed her kids, suddenly without a job or school lunches, the horrendous endless suffering in Syria-what will those families do if they contract the virus?-, or, heaven forbid, the lonely death of an elderly man or woman.
We have a job to do still, friends, in this world God loves.
Let’s focus on controlling that-which-we-can-control, and leave the rest to rest.
Are you a yes person?
I certainly am.
On a healthy level, I’m an optimist, and my kiddos certainly don’t complain about my yes-ness.
On a not-so-healthy level, though, saying yes has become a way to keep the unhealthy people in my life happy. You see, I hate conflict; saying yes has felt like a solid way to avoid all that complicated shit.
Also, have you ever noticed, when faced with a decision, there are usually a myriad of choices? And when various choices are presented, my FOMO kicks in, big time.
In college, if there were two events scheduled at the same time, I didn’t say “no” to either; I merely left one event early and arrived at the next one late. Missing out was not optional.
Even as I write these words, I see how egocentric this yes-habit has been.
Looking back, I notice that saying “yes” was also an intrinsic element of my spiritual DNA.
Recently, I was visiting with a person who was raised Mormon. He mentioned that if someone held a gun to his head and said, “Choose, Christianity or Mormonism?”, he would pick Mormonism. His reason? Mormons are genuinely “nice” people, but Christians, in his experience, are two-faced.
Saying yes to everything made me flat as paper and, yes, it also made me two-faced.
Because deep down, I had likes and dislikes, and there were certainly people I ought to have said no to but didn’t (usually because I was trying to be kind and loving).
Eventually, I tightened the lid on my container of flatulent no’s and gassy tempers so much it would all quite suddenly, and nastily, erupt. This came as a surprise to everyone, myself included, because I was supposedly such a “nice person”.
Two-faced? You betcha.
In my current favorite self-help book, lovingly deemed the “fuck book”, Mark Manson says, “...we need to reject something. Otherwise, we stand for nothing. If nothing is better or more desirable than anything else, then we are empty and our life is meaningless. We are without values and therefore live our life without any purpose.”
“We need to reject something.”
I recently said yes to lots of things that weren’t in line with my true passions. And some of those things have been “good”, bringing extra income into our household.
Yet, there’s something we don’t always realize about increasing our cash flow— living just to make money may cost us time, energy, relationships, and sometimes, even our dearest values.
I have been feeling as though a part of me had died, or at least was comatose, these past few months.
Now, I am looking through all the “yes’s” I made which led up to this point: Do they line up behind my core values? Do they lead me closer to being who I want to be?
I am sorting decisions, putting lots of crusty old “yes’s” in the “I-don’t-give-a-fuck-anymore” pile.
In my relationships, I am removing the sticky tape from my lips, voicing all my “no’s” and “I don’t want to’s”.
I am outlining myself in reddish-no’s: “...if we reject nothing…, we essentially have no identity at all.” (Mark Manson)
As I’ve been voicing my vehement no’s, I’ve been struck by how afraid I am of some sort of vitriolic anger or ugly retaliation from the people I am saying no to.
I’m not sure why this is. It just is.
Maybe it’s because of entitlement, I don’t know.
“The desire to avoid rejection at all costs, to avoid confrontation and conflict, the desire to attempt to accept everything equally and to make everything cohere and harmonize, is a deep and subtle form of entitlement.” Why? “Entitled people...feel as though they deserve to feel great all the time, avoid rejecting anything because doing so might make them or someone else feel bad.” (Manson)
Whatever the reason, I see now how my refusal to say no in the past has hurt both others and myself.
I am becoming a yes person to freedom, to healthy, spirited living.
And, yes, for me, that often means letting out some big ol’ lusty “No's!”.
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I'm a busy mom of three asking hard questions about my faith.